OK, I don’t like the name (iTablet or iSlate are much cooler sounding) but I think the iPad bashers have got it wrong and that this new device has the potential to change education. While many journalists are complaining about the $499 price tag, I keep thinking wow, only $499, that’s half the price of laptops!
Reasonable Expectations/ Reasonable Price Tag
First, you need to understand that the iPad is not a laptop. You will need a traditional laptop if you want all the functionality of a laptop. The iPad is a cross between an iPod touch and a laptop lite. The iPad is sufficient for 90% of classrooms who need a computer only to do word processing and internet browsing. In a perfect world, classrooms will still have at least one MacBook or iMac somewhere in the room but at $499 you can put more Apple computers in the hands of students at the half the price of what it would have cost you yesterday (the entry level iBook is about $999).
Advantages In Addition to Cost
1. Battery life is much longer than existing laptops and more akin to the iPod battery life.
2. Many of the shortcomings that analysts point to in terms of lack of complexity in the operating system are advantages in the classroom. Unlike a traditional computer, the iPad should require very little setup, troubleshooting, maintenance. Like your iPhone, the iPad should just run. In classrooms without tech support, this is fantastic.
3. Tactile computing. Students now just touch need to touch the screen to select what they want. This is intuitive and satisfying. It would be as easy to touch an English Language Learner or my grandmother as it would be to teach a computer scientist.
There are some features missing that are already on my iPad wishlist. This is a typical 1.0 version of the iPad. Remember when the iPhone came out it didn’t have third party apps, voice activation, or turn by turn navigation. I didn’t get an iPhone until version 3. I’m not really an early adopter. I personally would wait for future versions of the iPad before jumping in. However, if you’re ready, none of the missing features are a deal breaker for the classroom.
No camera? Does every student need a camera at his/her desk? Would every student be videoconferencing simultaneously?
No multi-tasking? Do students really work on two assignments at once? Applications like Safari do save your place when you switch out of them and then come back for purposes of research. People who have never used the iPhone don’t understand how you can live without multi-tasking, but trust me, you can.
No 16X9. This is a bummer if your watching a lot of high def movies but in the classroom, who cares?
No Adobe flash when visiting web sites. This is too bad but there’s no Flash on the iPhone and it hasn’t really bothered me. I suspect it’s coming to Apple’s mobile devices if you can be patient. Most sites will run fine without Flash.
If you need any of those things then you still have the option of getting a laptop. Again, temper your expectations, this is a netbook and not a full-fledged computer.
If money and lack of tech support have been holding your school back from adopting technology. This is a great first step in a positive direction.
What do you think of the new iPad and its potential in your classroom?